Engaging with the Survivor's Reality of Domestic Violence: A Discourse Analysis of Judicial Understanding in Survivor-Perpetrated Homicides
Domestic violence survivors who kill their abusive partners face significant challenges in claiming self-defence. These challenges centre on the extent to which legal actors are capable of understanding the reality of domestic violence and its effects on survivor-perpetrated homicides. Since 2005, Victoria has introduced changes to the Crimes Act 1958 (Vic) and the Jury Directions Act 2015 (Vic), which aim to facilitate a greater understanding of domestic violence. This article seeks to measure whether these provisions appear to have contributed to a more nuanced understanding of domestic violence among Victorian judges. The authors use discourse analysis to compare survivor-perpetrated homicide judgments in Victoria over the past decade to those in New South Wales, where there is no equivalent legislative guidance. The results of this analysis indicate that the Victorian provisions have contributed to shaping judicial understanding of domestic violence and its role in these killings, thus facilitating more equal justice for survivors. These findings provide support for legislative reform in other states to ensure that the relevant laws in all Australian jurisdictions engage with the survivors’ reality of domestic violence.